Who really benefits from the watershed conservation district?
We can learn a lot from the lawless towns of the old West, one of which was depicted in the 1955 movie called “The Far Country.” The villain is a corrupt, wealthy, yet affable judge/ sheriff who uses his power so that he alone will profit in the Gold Rush town. While the movie is fictional, the truth is that sometimes those in power rig the system so that they and their friends profit at the expense of others.
Last month, the Charles County Board of Commissioners approved the Watershed Conservation District (WCD). “The objective is to protect the Mattawoman Creek Stream Valley and the headwaters of the Port Tobacco River and to protect the watershed area’s natural resources.”
My question is, if the county is concerned about the environment, why are they limiting their land-use restrictions to 36,000 acres in the northwestern portion of Charles County? With the passage of the WCD, it’s now dictated by law that certain landowners must sacrifice their land use for the good of the environment, while commercialization, traffic congestion, development, sprawl and environmental degradation are ongoing with no end in sight in other areas of county, such as Waldorf. Rather than penalizing a select group of citizens, environmental protection should be an agreed-upon shared sacrifice among everyone in Charles County.
But that is not the case. According to the Charles County Department of Economic Development website, http://www.meetcharlescounty.com/ wurc, Charles County has committed $40 million of our tax dollars toward infrastructure to support the redevelopment of 300 acres for the Waldorf Urban Redevelopment Corridor. The plan includes 500 multifamily dwellings, 130,000 square feet of commercial space, a 50,000 square foot office building, a 50,000 square foot office building, a 100-room hotel and 1,200 structured parking spaces as well as a multi-purpose civic center. “The WURC infrastructure design study, which includes roads, water and sewer, has been underway since April 2015. Construction is project [sic] to begin early 2017, with project completion anticipated in 2019.”
Who stands to gain monetarily from this project? How is it justifiable to mandate that certain segments of land remain untouched, while at the same time, other parts of the county continue to be bulldozed and developed? Could it be that the WCD stems from nefarious motives of those in power and their crony capitalist friends, rather than environmental concerns? True environmentalists should be posing these same questions.
Think about it. With the land in the WCD zone lying fallow by law, essentially, landowners, real estate magnates and developers in Waldorf and other areas of the county hold a monopoly on buildable land. Who are the individuals who will profit from the WCD? Which office holders do they support and to whom do they make political contributions? Who is going to follow the money trail and report back to Charles countians?
In the old West movies, there’s usually a shoot out and the villain gets arrested. Today, it’s up to each of us to settle the score. We need to determine if public officials are working for the people and trying to protect the environment, or are they acting in their own best interests and that of their elitist friends. If it’s the latter, they need to be voted out of office.
Bernadette Smith, Welcome